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Last Updated:  Thursday, 20 February, 2003, 13:43 GMT
'Troop trials' in Dhaka crime fight
Bangladeshi troops cordon off a Dhaka street
Soldiers are back on the streets
Bangladeshi troops could be court martialled for alleged abuses committed during a controversial crackdown on crime, the authorities say.

The surprise amendment delayed the passage of a bill through parliament giving troops immunity for their actions.

Under the revised bill, military courts will still have powers to try soldiers accused of wrongdoing, the government told the BBC.

Human rights groups say that more than 40 people died in army custody during the three months of Operation Clean Heart, which ended in January.

Some of the 40,000 soldiers who were deployed were sent back onto the streets earlier this week after the authorities said crime levels were rising again.

Court martials

The government's about-turn came after widespread criticism of its plans to keep soldiers out of the civilian courts.

The army will hand over criminals to police
Bangladeshi official
The bill's passage into law was stopped at the last minute on Thursday when Law Minister Moudud Ahmed told the house that changes were being made to the original draft.

He later told the BBC that there had been what he called a printing mistake - which was why more time was needed for corrections.

He said the revised bill would allow the armed forces to hold court martials for those responsible for misdeeds committed during Clean Heart - if irregularities were found to have taken place during the operation.

The revised bill is expected to be considered again by MPs on Sunday.

Change in tactics

More than 10,000 people were arrested in Operation Clean Heart, including ruling party members and the opposition.

Although crime rates fell dramatically, the death of many suspects in army custody raised concern at home and abroad.

Relatives of the dead said the suspects had been tortured, but officials attributed many of the deaths to heart attacks.

The army returned to the streets of the capital, Dhaka, and five other major cities early on Tuesday.

Military officials say about 2,000 troops were called back in after a fresh surge in violent crime left more than 200 people dead in recent weeks.

This time round, however, soldiers themselves will not be detaining any suspects - they will hand them over to the police for questioning.



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